Archive records opened to the public – some after being closed for 100 years – have given fresh insight into what life was like for Islanders in the years between the two World Wars and for political prisoners during the Occupation period.
The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Law, shine a light on teaching practices and discrimination against married women in the 1920s, criminal cases in St Lawrence, admissions to the General Hospital and the imprisonment of those tried for political offences during the Occupation.
Many of the records date from the year 1923, a year in which the Women’s Political Union was founded in Jersey and Elizabeth Castle was transferred to the States with a significant ceremony on 21 May. It was also the year in which the Caesarea mail steamer struck the reef off Noirmont in fog and was beached, with 400 passengers rescued by small boats.
In the States of Jersey, the impact of the First World War was still being felt with the Home Office asking the Island to consider an annual contribution to the Imperial Exchequer in view of the serious condition of Great Britain’s finances following the War.
Closer to home, support for out of work ex-servicemen was discussed and the States adopted a scheme for putting an electric plant at the General Hospital to provide light and power for the institution.
Linda Romeril, Jersey Heritage’s Archives & Collections Director, said: “Each year, new records are released to the public after closures of up to 100 years under Freedom of Information exemptions. This year’s records include both stories of individuals and of wider social policies and attitudes in the inter-war and Occupation periods.
“It is always fascinating to see the changes in attitudes that these records show. For example, it is incredible to us in 2024 that married women were disqualified from teaching in Jersey in 1923 purely on account of their marital status. It is also interesting to see the impact of national and international
affairs on the Island, as illustrated by a file from the Lieutenant Governor’s collection asking for details of an Irish Republican who is believed to be staying in Jersey. Records from the Occupation period are always interesting for researchers and the Prison Register that cover those years shows the individuals who were sentenced by the German courts for political offences.”
Highlights of the newly opened records
Primary Instruction Committee
The Primary Instruction Committee minutes now open to the public date from 1916-1923. They cover a variety of subjects, including school finances, staff training and salaries, building projects and the inspection of schools in the Island.
On 13 June 1923, the Committee decide to dispense with the services of married women employed in primary schools, apart from exceptional cases, which were at the discretion of the Committee. The Committee Secretary was asked to inform female married teachers that their services were no longer required from 31 October 1923.
On 11 July, the records show that the Committee received letters from Edith Creswell, F G Le Blancq and Ellen Hall, who were all married female teachers due to lose their jobs under the Committee’s decision. The Committee decided that in Edith Creswell’s case, there were exceptional circumstances and that she could keep her job, but Mrs Le Blancq and Mrs Hall were not so lucky.
This practice was known as ‘the marriage bar’ and was still common in the interwar period, despite the introduction of the Sex-Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919. In England, the marriage bar was removed for teachers in 1944.
Despite the Committee’s rules on married women, a number of female pupils were chosen to attend teacher training college. On 20 June 1923, May Kathleen Durham and Phyllis Beryl Perchard were chosen by the Committee to attend the Salisbury Diocesan Training College and fill the two places retained for individuals from Jersey.
The Committee also supported apprenticeships and on 20 June that year, they agreed to give 5 shillings per week to the father of Clifford Le Monnier to support his apprenticeship as a carpenter with Bakers Brothers.
General Hospital Admission Register
Each year, a new admission register for the Jersey General Hospital is opened to the public, giving a wealth of information for family and social historians. This year’s includes all those who stayed in the Hospital in 1923, either for reasons of poverty or assistance, or because they had a medical need.
The Bihet family were admitted to the General Hospital in November 1922 because their mother, Catherine, had been taken ill after giving birth. The family comprised Ernest, aged 12; William, aged
9; Marie, aged 7; Marcel and Angel aged 5; and Agatha aged 1½. Three of the children were sent to Overdale in February 1923, with the other three discharged from the Hospital in May 1923.
The ‘poor’ wing of the Hospital included long-term residents, such as Archibald E H Bastifell, who was 64 in 1923 and had been there for 40 years since his admission in 1883 at the age of 24. Georgina Butler, aged 72, is simply listed as being in the Hospital since before 1879.
An Irish Republican
The Irish Free State was established in December 1922 following the Irish War of Independence, which was fought between the Irish Republican Army and the British security forces. The Free State comprised 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland, with Northern Ireland being made up of the remaining six counties.
During the initial months of the Irish Free State, civil war was waged between the newly established National Army and the Anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Correspondence in the Jersey Lieutenant Governor’s files gives evidence of the conflict between the newly formed Free State and the IRA, and shows a potential Jersey link.
On 12 December 1922, in the first few weeks of the Irish Free State, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Special Branch, New Scotland Yard, Lieutenant Colonel Carter wrote to the Lieutenant Governor as he had received information indicating that a Republican was staying in Jersey.
In the letter, Carter explained he had been informed that a man called Daniel Hillman was believed to be staying four miles north-east of Mont Orgueil Castle, within a few hundred yards of where the Atlantic cable came into the Island. Hillman was believed to be in collusion with the Republicans in Ireland.
It was believed that Art O’Brien, head of the Republican movement in England, transmitted £5,000 to Hillman to be used for buying arms and ammunition to wage a war against the Irish Free State government. The Free State had issued proceedings against O’Brien for the recovery of the money and Carter indicated that transferring the money to Jersey was a way to get it out of the country.
At the end of the letter, he said that Hillman had not previously come to the attention of Scotland Yard and asked the Lieutenant Governor to find out what he could and whether Hillman had recently deposited a large sum of money in a local bank.
St Lawrence Honorary Police Register, 1897-1923
On 19 September 1901, both Pierre Cadin, a 29-year-old from St Brieuc, and Captain John Godfrey Burrows, a 65-year-old born in St Brelade, were arrested for assaulting each other.
The court case that followed showed that Pierre was working for Captain Burrows and that they were threshing corn. As this was thirsty work, drink was served as usual, but Pierre had more than his fair
share and Captain Burrows, seeing that he was drunk, told him to “leave off work and come down from the load of straw”.
Pierre refused and “caught hold of him by the throat and cried out, ‘I’ll kill you’’. There was a struggle and Captain Burrows hit Pierre over the head with a fork, leading to them both being arrested. Eventually, both were freed with Pierre bound over to keep the peace.
Prison Register 1931–1948
The Prison Register opened this year covers the period 1931-1948 and includes the names and stories of the men and women who passed through the Prison during this time. This covers the Occupation period and the Register shows both prisoners who appeared in Jersey courts and those who appeared before the German courts that were established in the Island at the time.
The Register begins in 1931 and lists the name of each prisoner, the date of their imprisonment, the authority ordering the imprisonment, the offence and the sentence. The Register also lists personal details, including an individual’s age, height and hair colour, their occupation, religion and birthplace, and interestingly their weight on entry into the Prison and later at discharge. Previous convictions were also noted, as are any particular marks such as tattoos and scars. Finally, the Register lists the date of discharge and any remarks.
The first person mentioned in the Register who was imprisoned on the order of the Island Commandant of German Occupation is Gordon Surguy, who was tried for wilful damage on 19 August 1940 by order of the German Military Authorities.
On 20 September 1940, Maria Louisa Clara Crawford-Morrison was imprisoned by the German Authorities for insults under the penal code; she was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment. Maria was born in Chile and was one of the many individuals deported from Jersey in September 1942.
The Register includes names familiar to Occupation historians, such as Canon Clifford John Cohu, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his involvement in disseminating news listened to on wireless sets that had been banned by the German Authorities. Cohu was sent to France on 13 July 1943 and died in Zöshcen Forced Labour Camp.
The Prison Register also includes the names of Joe Tierney, Arthur Dimmery and John Whitley Nicolle, all of whom worked with Cohu to spread news from the BBC and all of whom died on the continent in German prison and internment camps.
The D-Day landings of 6 June 1944 and Allied incursion into Normandy and then the rest of France and Europe effectively left Jersey cut off. For political prisoners this meant that, rather than being transported to prison and forced labour camps in Europe, their sentences would be carried out in the Jersey prison. The part of the Register dating from the second half of 1944 and first half in 1945 shows a number of political prisoners entering the prison for committing offences against the German Authorities. Joe Mière talks about the overcrowding in the Prison in his book ‘Never to be Forgotten’ recalling that the German Authorities ordered the Jersey Government to build a wooden hut in the Prison grounds to deal with the number of prisoners.
Joe’s name appears in the Prison Register as he was sent to prison on 5 March 1945 after being tried in the German courts on 30 January for continual anti-German demonstrations and continually insulting the Occupying Forces. The Register shows that Joe was sentenced to one year and six months in prison but, like many others, he was released on 7 May just prior to Liberation Day.